Tag Archives: sdm

Rumours of my death are (largely) unfounded

The rumours of my death are largely unfounded.  I’ve just been either busy working or trying to relax while not on a computer since this is as much of a “break” as I get.

I have, though, done various updates to twitter and identi.ca if you have some obsessive need to know what I’ve been doing.  It hasn’t been that exciting, though.  Basically boils down to the following relatively short list

  • Went cross-country skiing a couple of times.  With the very wintry weather we’ve had thus far this winter, it’s been something good to be able to get outside and do as it hasn’t exactly been ideal biking weather
  • FUDCon F11 was held in Cambridge at MIT.  Since it was in E51 and I knew where things were, I spent a fair bit of time running around.  I had some good conversations, but didn’t give any presentations and didn’t really get any hacking done with the hackfest
  • The SDM 09s have started and I helped some with their first design challenge.  Was fun to watch and they seem a good bunch
  • Have been trying to read a fair bit and so made good progress on my book backlog.  Still hoping to finish that before classes start back up
  • Some poking and prodding in the hopes of getting Fedora 11 alpha out the door in a semi-decent shape
  • More work on the new initramfs tooling, although it’s making slower progress than I’d really like
  • Getting extra sleep

Winter cycling, NC cycling and a year-end wrap-up

Some people think that the winter is a significant off-season for cyclists especially in New England with the snow and cold. But that's about as far from the truth as you can get as it's important to keep up aerobic fitness during the winter in preparation for the hard efforts of spring and summer. I try to get outside as frequently as I can but this winter I'm forcing myself to get on the trainer sometimes as well if the weather is really bad out (like, for example, today when we're getting like eight inches of snow).

In those cases, I'm realizing that NetFlix is a very good thing and especially the instant watch functionality coupled with a TiVo. Some movies are better than others for riding to and I don't yet have it down to a science. But action movies seem pretty good generally – today's selection was The Fugitive which was a pretty good choice.

Another thing that's helpful is going somewhere warmer for a week. We spent last week at my parents' house in western NC and I took my bike along. Unfortunately there weren't enough great weather days but there were one or two. And I noticed a few things while there and riding

  • While maybe not significantly more vertical gain on a given ride, you are more often going up or down as there is signicosmtlu less flat present
  • Everything is further apart distance wise even if car place to place times aren't significantly different than around here.
  • A dog chasing you can make you ride very fast :)
  • My base training plan seems to at least be somewhat working. I went out with the A group of hickory velo club on Saturday and had no problems keeping ip through the hills and fast straights even though I haven't ridden hard or fast in two months now
  • Defeet is based in western NC and I rode with the founders of the company; very nice and cool people. Shane – thanks for letting me suck your wheel much of the ride :)
  • Not many cyclists on the roads in Hickory but cars give a much wider berth; they fully go into the other lane instead of eying to see how little space they can give you

As far as overall cycling for the year, I didn't do nearly as good of a job of tracking as I did last year and I also had some frustration with my Garmin Edge 305 dying until I found the trick to stop it from doing so, but it looks like I did about 2500 miles on my Redline 9-2-5 and 3500 or so miles on my Merlin. Given how busy the year was, getting 6000 miles is a pretty big accomplishment in my view.

Anyway that's what I've got for today. I'm off until next Monday and then back to work and also going to be helping out with the initiation rites for the SDM 09s :). Classes don't start back until the first of February although I'm going to do a couple of IAP offerings I think. And I still owe a fall semester wrap up post soon. But for now, Happy New Years and if you make resolutions, best of luck with them.

Semester nearly over

At this point, the semester is almost entirely over. While I still have one day of each class left, pretty much every assignment is done and turned in. Only have to finish up the principles assignment for System Architecture and that's mostly a matter of sitting down and throwing some together from the notes that I've got from the semester.

Overall, it's been a good semester. The workload ended up being a bit higher than I expected, but it was probably what I should have thought. I knew that System Architecture was going to be time-consuming, but it was still more so than I thought. Similarly, Project Management ended up requiring more time both for the homeworks and the project than I really expected from the outset.

Those along with working to get all of the Fedora 10 bits working on the OLPC meant that it was just a very busy semester. But, now it's actually the time when I get nearly two monhs to relax and “just” work. Well, and I also am hoping to try to get some progress underway for my thesis so that I don't have to do it all while juggling classes also. It should still be a good sort of break, though. And then, it's on to the spring semester. Which I still need to figure out what I'm going to take — suggestions welcome :-)

How much can be packed into a weekend?

Busy, busy weekend. One thing which helped to make it more doable is that I finally started feeling better on Thursday of this week. Two weeks is the longest I haven't felt while in a long time. I still have a little bit of a cough, but I'm no longer feeling run down and the cough is far less bad. But getting back to the weekend…

Friday was spent with quite a bit of work being done for school (although Fedora 10 was done, so not much there). Last opportunity set for system architecture is due on Wednesday, so we tried to make some headway on that. Then, I headed home and worked for a while longer. Eventually, Kara and I headed to dinner and then it was a pretty slow evening.

Yesterday morning, woke up to a very cold morning — was just over 20° F and windy. I bundled up and headed down to go out on the Quad ride. It was a cold morning, but there was still a healthy number of people all things considered. Most turned around from Concord Center, but I had one person to continue on with me to get in a good 3 hours of base miles. With the new gloves (Pearl Izumi amphibs), I was able to keep warm except for my toes.

After the ride, came home, grabbed some lunch and then got some work done. Then, headed to poker night with some SDM folks. I had a great time and it was good to see everyone who made it out. Need to be sure that we also arrange some sort of end of semester thing, perhaps for after the last System Architecture class in a couple of weeks. I suspect even more people can be convinced to go for that once there's not a lot of work waiting to be done. Kara and I headed out from there a bit early to meet up with some friends of ours for a bit. Finally headed home about midnight and crashed.

This morning, woke up again to the cold and went out for another healthy set of base miles. Only about ten people, although more continued on for more than 20 miles. Got in about 3 hours again and still only had problems with my feet. After the ride, headed down to MIT for some time in the MIT wind tunnel — one of the perks of being on the MIT team is that we get to have a little bit of time in the wind tunnel to see the impacts of position, etc. It was a pretty cool experience and we made some slight tweaks to my position to improve aerodynamics.

Now trying to catch up on some things to get a head start on the short week beginning tomorrow. Into the final stretch of the semester for real now. And then, I'm halfway done with SDM. Hard to believe — time flies when you're having fun.

The end of the semester comes early it seems

For some reason, the end of this semester seems to be coming early this time around. Although the end of classes isn't until the middle of December, it seems that pretty much everything is due before Thanksgiving. Which, coupled with trying to get Fedora 10 out the door is going to make the next few weeks a pile of pain.

So if the updates from me seem sparse, that's why. And then of course, to make things even more fun, I came down with something the end of last week which I haven't quite managed to completely shake. Although at this point, it might just be my usual congestion for this time of year.

Systems Thinking Conference

At the end of last week was the SDM Systems Thinking Conference, the new incarnation of what used to be the SDM alumni conference. As with last year's version, a number of alumni were present but there was also a wider range of people present. And comparing to one day of last year's conference, this year's definitely seemed better.

While most of the talks were generally good, there were a few that really stuck out.

Peter Senge's talk on how sustainability can improve profitability got things off to a really good start. He started out with a bit of an overview of his views on organizational learning, one of which is around understanding complexity. His major premise for the talk was that a lack of the systems thinking needed to understand complexity is the fundamental cause of basically all sustainability problems. A couple of things that he said really jumped out at me. One of the biggest was when he asked what the purpose of a business was — most of the audience responded with “make money” or “profit”. But the thing is that profit isn't the purpose of the business… “profit for a company is like oxygen for a person; yes, you need it but you don't exist to breathe”. A second thing that really resonated was that to really improve sustainability, you need to make the shift from trying to be “less bad” to thinking about being “really good”. And it's really true in many/most areas (see Arjan's discussion of five-second Linux boot for a similar case)

He also had a number of cases illustrating his ideas which were pretty compelling. And he also used system dynamics a few times to make his point which was a nice touch :)

Oli de Weck teaches the System Project Management course but his talk on applying Darwinian principles to System Design ended up being an interesting and somewhat divergent talk from the areas we discuss in class. The most important take-away is that changeability is something which, while considered, is not considered enough when designing a system. Per the quote from Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is more adaptable to change”. And when you start looking into it, this is just as true with systems as is it is with the evolution of species. Thus, there are changes need from some of the more “traditional” systems engineering which presumes that all of these sorts of things are set in stone. Instead, he proposes something called strategic engineering to help deal with the uncertainty which is actually present for most projects. This lets you pick along the axes of robustness and rigidity to help get better outcomes.

The final speaker on the second day of the conference was Dharmesh Shah speaking on applying agile software techniques to startups. The material being presented was good. But even better was the actual presentation of the material. Dharmesh clearly has a lot of passion for what he was talking about and he manages to pull off the blend of humor and information very well. Also, even though he had slides, I was glad that his slides were very sparse and very much not the bulk of the talk.

The other talks were pretty interesting too. There was a talk from Paul Murray at Herman Miller (yes, the Aeron people) about how they've made it a goal to reduce their environmental impact and what they've done and what impacts that has had. Valerie Casey from IDEO also spoke on sustainability and was giving an overview of the Designer's Accord is looking to accomplish. There was a talk that was better than I expected about how eClinicalWorks has managed to get a significant penetration into physician offices with their software by using very non-traditional methods for selling software. And there was a talk from a Microsoft guy about their Software+Services pitch, but this was very abstract and without any real details other than the impression that Microsoft is going to be very seriously going after the Cloud.

All in all, quite good. Plus, there was free food (always a plus) and a lot of cool people to hang around and talk with.

Some attempt at catching up

As has probably been obvious, things have been a bit busy for me of late. For some reason, my classes this semester have seemed to be quite a bit more work than either of the spring or summer. I'm not sure how much of that is psychological and how much of it is real. But the nice thing is that after this semester, I'll only have a couple of required courses left and can pick and choose some interesting electives without having to worry much about conflicts with required courses.

This week is the business trip for this semester and it's good to have (mostly) everyone around on campus. And it's also nice to have lots of meals provided :) Unlike the prior business trips, in some ways, this one is fairly sparsely populated. On the other hand, that's likely due to the fact that it's also the week of what used to be the alumni conference and is now the Systems Thinking Conference. In any case, Monday didn't have much going on out of the ordinary although I spent the day on campus instead of my usual day in Westford. Yesterday we had a lunch and then in the evening was the final information session for the year for those interested in applying for SDM. I again helped out by mingling with some of the prospective students to answer questions and then being on the panel as well. One of the really interesting things to me about being on the panel and answering questions is the differences in questions between groups of prospective students; while there are some common themes, each night seems to have its own sort of theme or direction. Also, it's fairly obvious that some people come in and are comfortable asking a bunch of questions in front of a group while others are not so comfortable. But even those who don't ask questions during the panel tend to have them in the smaller mingling around time. What that says, I'm not entirely sure.

Today was the SDM Open House for students that have been accepted to start in January of 2009. So lunch was spent trying to talk with a few of them and helping to answer any lingering questions they had about the program as well as making sure that they have the appropriate level of respect for January and the amount of time that it requires. This afternoon, I had intended to spend some time trying to get at least some of the basics of the OLPC power management code merged into a Fedora kernel, but I instead ended up spending it spread between email and finishing up my project management homework. And there's enough meat on the subject of project management and some of the tools from the class for another post at another time, so I'll leave that out there for now

This evening was a “networking event”, organized by Yoav. As has been the norm there was a pretty good turn-out of SDM08s, the usual cadre of SDM07s and with the alumni conference, some alumni and also some of the SDM09s. Always good to just get a chance to hang out with people and talk about annoyances and good things with classes.

Notable quote of the evening from a discussion that Linda and I were having with Yoav: “there's the class for entrepreneurship and the one for innovation” with regards to the Sloan business law class. But given that they're very overlapping (~60% of the content is probably the same), it's less bad than it sounds. The differences seem to mostly be what the guest speakers are focusing on as opposed to anything more fundamental with regards to the material.

Tomorrow and Friday are the conference and I'm going to make an effort to try to attend a fair bit of it while also trying to get some groundwork laid to do some testing in the evenings/over the weekend.

Catching up

About this time last week, I came to the realization that I had a ton of pending work to get done. Luckily, I'm now starting to feel more like I'm on track and not behind. But it was less than fun, so I'm definitely going to try to be better about staying on top of things, especially the system architecture “opportunity sets” for the rest of the semester. Otherwise, classes are going good. Given the amount of time getting sucked up, I decided to not actually be a listener for the Software Systems Engineering course, which is too bad. But this way, I should have some time to just to a few more random talks around MIT. Which is probably going to be more interesting and helpful.

On other fronts, the Fedora on OLPC and Sugar on Fedora efforts are picking up steam a bit. Hopefully we'll have some more useful milestones for both in the next week or so. But due to work there, I haven't had much time to spend on getting a SIG for other smaller form factor machines (including netbooks, the XO and more) underway. Luckily, Peter Robinson has volunteered on fedora-devel-list to help get this off the ground, so hopefully we can get that going to.

Never a dull day…

MIT Racing Skills Clinic

One thing that I've told myself I'm going to try to take more advantage of than I did in the spring is some of the other things that MIT has to offer. This includes trying to make a point of going to some random lectures on random topics (… that seem interesting) but also doing some riding with the MIT cycling club/team. I went on a few of the Intercollegiate Ice Cream rides over the summer and the people seemed nice enough. So I went to the first meeting of the semester on Monday and decided that I am going to do some collegiate racing for MIT in the spring. I figure that a) it's a good chance to get some more riding in b) a good chance to meet some more people from different parts of MIT than I usually interact with as an SDM-er and c) the MIT racing team is good. Very very good. As in, nationals champion good.

Anyway, the first skills clinic of the year was held yesterday so I went down for it. Not a lot of mileage put in, but a good workout. And lots of good work. The MIT team is coached by Nicole Freedman and it's pretty obvious even after one skills clinic that one thing that has helped the team succeed is a good coach. The first skills clinic was a lot of fun — some things to help focus on relaxing (somewhat ironic, yes), some skills drills and then some “getting comfortable riding really really close to someone”. The latter culminated in a fun game of Death Bike. Yes, Death Bike is as much fun as it sounds and I'll have to be sure not to miss the first skills clinic next year so that I can do it again ;-) Looking forward to the future clinics as I think they'll be very helpful to me in getting to be a better rider and racer.

Today brought rain and quite a bit of it, so I didn't get out for a ride and have instead spent the day working either on stuff for work or on stuff for school. While I would have liked to have gotten a ride in, at least I can be glad that I was productive and thus feel better if I take some time for a ride on a day with better weather :-)

One week of classes and then a little

One week of classes is now complete so I figure it's about time to put up my first impressions of what I'm taking.

The first sort of general impression is that after a pretty busy summer semester I'm not really ready for things to be picking back up for the fall yet. I realized on Thursday that I've been a bit lax ingetting together groups for classes this semester and this also put off starting on some assignments. The first of which are all due this week. But got that under control and have spent some time this weekend to get back on track and will hopefully be done doing so with some concerted effort today. As for the specific classes I'm taking three for credit – two of the required and core classes for the SDM program and one elective

The first of the required classes is Systems Program Management. The course, as with a number of the ESD courses is taught by a few faculty members. Overall it looks like it should be okay and the professors definitely seem to be good. My one complaint thus far is that there is a non trivial amount of repeating, albeit at a less in-depth level, of the materials presented in System Dynamics. If it is seen as important enough to be covered either the course should be required or the sequencing adjusted a bit so that the intro material gets covered in SPM and then the SD class could spend more time on deeper aspects of the material.

The second of the required classes I'm taking is System Architecture. Crawley seems a bit less antagonistic than in January, at least thus far. And an attempt is being made to help make this more relevant to software — we'll see how it goes.

The elective I'm taking is the Sloan Business Law course (15.616). I'm actually enjoying this quite a bit and think that it's going to be a very useful course. We're starting out with a bit of whirldwind tour through some of the basics of tort law, some regulation and criminal law, and contracts. Then, a vast majority of the rest of the course is taken up by guest lectures from practicing experts in a variety of legal fields. The readings have thus far been relevant and a reasonable length. And the professor is also very engaged and clearly wants to help drive some understanding of the material.

In addition to those three, I'm intending to be a listener (MIT-speak for auditing) for the new Software Systems Engineering course which is being run as a trial this fall. The big picture overview of the class made it seem like there's an attempt being made to bring in a lot of the big system-specific pieces for the software world. It should at the very least be interesting to give some feedback on the various pieces and hopefully help make the SDM program a bit better for software people in future years.